On first sight, Lou’s Philly Steak doesn’t seem like much. Tucked away on Long Street in the Donut Connection shopping strip, this newcomer Philly cheesesteak shop doesn’t have any big signs or flashy lettering to draw you in. The interior is purple and gold with large UVa Cavalier posters. It looks like it’s been in Charlottesville for years, though it opened on July 1st. There are only six tables, which were all filled at 12:30. But if anything, the nondescript nature and worn-in feeling of Lou’s will only help entrench it in Charlottesville’s tried-and-true, locals-only category of restaurants.
I ordered a Philly cheesesteak with onions, peppers, American cheese, and lettuce, as well as an order of fries. True aficionados seem to love their cheese whiz or provolone, which Lou’s offers, but American cheese, and the nontraditional lettuce addition, made for a perfect cheesesteak. After a short wait, the server handed me a foil-covered basket filled with the gigantic sandwich and fries. The fries were piping-hot, with the kind of crunchy exterior and creamy interior that a good fry should have. The first bite of my sandwich tasted like all that’s right with comfort food – a mix of fatty, creamy, salty, with a satisfying mix of textures. The American cheese was stuffed down into a fresh yet substantial white sub roll and spilled over the edges, covering the onion, pepper, and steak scramble. The meat itself was incredibly juicy, tender, and well-seasoned. The addition of the lettuce, while certainly unorthodox, added a nice crunch and brightness to an otherwise heavy sandwich. I meant to eat one half, but ate both.
Lou’s Philly Steak also serves Italian, turkey, and Italian sausage hoagies. A “Philly Special” also appears on the menu – I didn’t ask what differentiated this sandwhich, but will probably try it on my next visit. The service was familiar and friendly, if a bit understaffed. Lou himself made a point to stop at my table and all the others to check on our meal and make a quick joke. The quality of the food, the price point of $10 and under for a full meal, and the familiarity of the place will hopefully ensure Lou’s a place in Charlottesville’s pantheon of family-owned and family-friendly cheap eats.
Pros: Quality food, great service, comfortable vibe.
Cons: Out of-the-way location, not incredibly attractive décor.
Price: $8.25 for a sandwich, roughly $10 for a meal. (Cash and check only.)
Parking: Next to the building in the shopping center.
Facebook Page: Lou’s Philly Steak Shop
Mon – Wed: 11am-11pm
Thu – Sat: 11am-12am